These past couple of weeks have been full of bonding cultural experiences, laughter, camels, and really cute kids. We have had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of different people and look forward to sharing a bit of our recent adventures. We have continued to live quite the tourist life here as we have been blessed to see so many of the wonderful things that Antalya has to offer. We have also been really happy to start building relationships with some of the local people, as well as friends that are also from America, and even a friend from Mexico. As our work here begins, we find a lot of truth behind what we heard about Turkish culture. Being on time is rare, the last minute is never too late to change plans, and flexibility is key. The camp isn’t quite up and running yet, so we have been available to fill quite a few different roles, which has been really fun.
Last week we worked at Paul’s Place Cultural Center, which doubles as a cafe and serves as the local International Church. From 10-1 everyday we led a group of about 8 kids under the age of six in crafts, games, and songs. The first day taught us that a very loose schedule is fine- necessary even- as we had to change the plan to fit the level of communication we could achieve and short attention spans. Early on Monday we learned some survival words: no=hayır, come here=gel, and very good!=çok güzel! These, along with a very few other phrases we were able to memorize were put into repetition with endless hand motions which seemed to get the job done. The number of kids we had everyday fluctuated, and luckily we had the help of our friend Halil, who served as translator and peace-keeper, and a couple of older siblings who helped a lot and laughed only a little when we said things that were wrong or accidentally inappropriate (as with a lot of languages, there are a few English words that don’t quite mean the same things in Turkish...)
Overall, I think we would count the week a success as we had a lot of fun, the kids made lots of fun crafts, and they really opened up to us by the end of the week. It was so fun to watch them sing along to Ring Around the Rosy (even though they had no idea what they were saying) and to play countless rounds of Kedi, Kedi, Köpek (Cat, Cat, Dog...our new, easily translated version of Duck Duck Goose) with them.
This week we got to work with Pam, who works at the church with a focus on university students. We went with her to the Akdeniz Üniversite campus on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to pass out flyers to help promote an English conversation club that is offered through Paul’s Place during the summer. Because of a shooting about a year ago, it is a closed campus with lots of security. Pam wanted to ask some of the faculty to post the flyers (because you aren’t allowed to just put them up on a bulletin board) so we got to see some of the campus as we walked around looking for the right people. No on is allowed to pass out flyers on the campus, and even as we stood off of campus, on the opposite side of the street- we were approached and told that we had to have permission from the government to pass out anything. This permission ended up costing 130 TL for only 3 days. It was definitely eye-opening to see, whereas if we wanted to do the same thing at UW we wouldn’t face any opposition whatsoever. A lot of the University students are still in a position of making decisions with their families- so if it somehow got out that the English lessons were based out of a place that holds a church (even though they aren’t even held at the center) and the family gets angry, the university could get blamed, so no one wants to put their name behind the decision to allow the lessons to be advertised on campus. Through a lot of random circumstances, though, we have reached quite a few people that are really interested in coming to the classes, and we are excited to get to be teaching at the first few next week. Pam has introduced us to a lot of girls our age, and it has been really fun to get to know them a bit better. Landi has a gift of quickly connecting with the girls we have met, and has been a blessing to the rest of us as her desire to build relationships with these women is inspiring to the rest of us.
Today we got to work at a rehab center for developmentally disabled children, and it was so much fun. We went armed with a few art projects and were blessed with lots of excitement and laughter. It was a challenge as only one staff member spoke any English, so we were left once again to hand motions and any other non-verbal communication skills we have picked up in the last couple of weeks. It was neat to see how creative the staff there are with the different projects they do with the kids and we look forward to going back next week to work with them again.
On the tourist side of things, we have been busy visiting even more beautiful sights. We found our favorite beach- Konyaaltı- with clear water, surrounded by cliffs on one side, and mountains on the other. We went on a boat ride out of the old harbor and were pleasantly surprised with a little bit of rain- we felt right at home! On Sunday we went to Düden Falls where we saw some beautiful waterfalls and got to ride some camels- which is pretty much the highlight of the trip :) We also went to Aqualand- a mini Wild Waves and had a blast running around like the little kids we really are.
This weekend we look forward to going to Kemer- the town in the mountains where the kids camp is located. We will be helping with some of the work to get it up and running, which will probably happen the week after next. Also, we are taking our first overnight trip- we are going to Olympos to see the burning rocks and stay in a treehouse.
We have had a few bouts of minor illness- stomach bugs and headaches, but nothing major. Your continued prayers would be appreciated- I think we are each starting to experience little moments of missing home (people, places and foods..). Also, as our plans continue to be up in the air and we have more free time than we planned, we would love prayer for guidance with how we should be spending our time. We want to know that our time here is not wasted, and it is a struggle knowing how much to invest in certain places and relationships when we don’t know how much longer we will be here before moving to the camp.
The task of putting into words all that we have already experienced here is quite daunting. There aren’t many words that could allow me to eloquently express the sights that we have seen, the sounds we have heard, the food we’ve tasted or the feelings we’ve developed for these people. We hope, though, that between what we have recorded here, the photos we’ve taken, and the stories we will share when we get home you will be able to better grasp the fullness of this trip- because it just wouldn’t be fair to keep it to ourselves.
Your Turkish Delights
p.s Check out more pictures on our team site: http://web.me.com/brittanynation/Turkey_Trip_2009/Welcome.html